Our next stop is my apartment building. Tanner parallel parks on the street and tells me once more to hurry up.
"And what if I decide not to come back down?" I ask him.
"You will," he replies confidently. "You value your life, just like I do. Now get a move on."
I roll my eyes before heading into the building and up the stairs. Inside my apartment, a knot forms in the pit of my stomach as I survey the space and my belongings. This place has been my sanctuary since I left my parents' home. I have worked really hard to make it cozy and welcoming: the furniture is dark and overstuffed; the carpet, throws, and pillows are in jewel tones of crimson, dark purple, and deep blue. Books and candles line every shelf and table, while a small television is hidden behind a printed screen in the corner.
In my bedroom, I pack a small suitcase in the naïve hope that I will not be gone long. Then, back in the living room, I carefully wrap and place my magickal tools inside a small red footlocker that had belonged to my great-grandfather. Before bidding my apartment goodbye, I cast a small protective charm over the footlocker. Werewolves are naturally suspicious creatures, and so I have no doubt at least one of them will try to snoop through my things. Now, if anyone tries to open the trunk, they're in for a nasty surprise.
In the car, I crank up the radio to drown out the tense, buzzing silence. The sky is overcast and the air slogging through the open windows as we speed down the highway is humid and thick. I tap my fingers along to the beat and mouth the words as the song comes to an end:
Yesterday, and days before, Sun is cold and rain is hard,
I know; Been that way for all my time.
'Til forever, on it goes through the circle, fast and slow,
I know; It can't stop, I wonder…
"Never pegged you as a Fogerty fan," Tanner remarks. "Figured you'd be more into Sarah McLaughlin or Fiona Apple."
"Why? Because I'm a witch, or because I'm a girl?"
"I guess I never got the memo that females weren't allowed to listen to John Fogerty. Don't get me wrong; I like listening to a good sappy chick ballad while I cry and eat ice cream after a break up, but I much prefer a good old fashioned rock song."
Tanner nods appreciatively. "Then there's hope for you yet."
Sighing, I watch the signs out the window as Tanner signals over and takes the off-ramp. "We're going to the airport? I thought we were driving to Starling."
"Change of plans. It's quicker to fly to Edmonton, then drive the couple hours north to town."
Tanner finds a space close to the entrance in the concrete hell known as the airport underground parking garage. He locks the car after I pull my suitcase and footlocker out of the backseat. Crouching down, he hides the key in the underbody somewhere.
"You're just going to leave your car here?"
Shrugging, Tanner grabs my luggage and starts walking. "A buddy of mine will drive it back in a few days. No big deal."
"With a pile of drugs?"
"You think I'm some kind of drug kingpin?" he mutters. As we line up at the Air Canada counter, he adds, "That was your brother's shtick, not mine."
"So why are you in Vancouver?"
"I came because Matt died. I thought we already went through this."
"The common thread between you and my brother is drugs. You helped him out – for a price. Seems like you've made pacts like this before."
From the corner of my eye, I watch as my suitcase and footlocker are weighed and given stickers. It's a good thing that the box won't be x-rayed; my tools, especially my athame, would be confiscated. I would likely be arrested as a terrorist. Wouldn't that just make my day even better…
Tanner prods my arm with his elbow. "Let's go to the gate," he says, handing me my ticket.
"You can't keep ignoring me," I tell him as we walk through the noisy, crowded airport to the security checkpoint. "At least tell me what I'll be doing in Starling. Am I going to be a slave? I'm a decent cook, but I'm horrible at folding laundry."
A haggard security guard motions Tanner forward. He sheds his bomber jacket and his belt, placing both items into a plastic bin. As he strolls through the metal detector, I can't help but notice the way his white t-shirt clings to his muscular back.
I mentally slap myself as I empty the loose change from my pockets into a bin. I really need to stop thinking about how attractive the werewolf is.
As I step through the metal detector, the alarm goes off. A guard holds up her hand and I see Tanner point to his neck. My hand flies up to my mother's necklace resting at my throat. I step back, take a deep breath, and unclasp the necklace before putting it too in a bin. I make it through the next screening clean, but my focus is now on my necklace being scrutinized under the x-ray. I know that in parts of Europe, technology has been developed to detect magickal objects. It's rumored that a few witches have been arrested and detained after setting off the machines.
When my necklace is handed back to me, my frantic heart finally slows. As soon as that new technology makes its way here, traveling is going to get a hell of a lot more difficult.
I try to look cool as I fall into step beside Tanner. He arches a questioning eyebrow, but I just point down the terminal. "There's Gate 12."
There are hardly any people waiting for our flight. A man wearing headphones lounges near the window, while a mother and her young child play on the ground a few meters away. Tanner and I sit across from each other in hard plastic seats, out of earshot of the others. He pulls three rumpled protein bars from his jacket and offers me one. I decline but sit forward and demand, "Tell me what I'll be doing in Starling. Now."
"You could at least say 'please.'"
I watch him, stone-faced, and wait.
He takes a bite of his protein bar and looks down at his gauze-wrapped hand before speaking. "We're in the middle of a land dispute. There's a pack to the east of us with a new alpha. He thinks he's top shit, and is claiming that a good chunk of our territory is his."
"Huh. So this just came out of the blue? And – wait, I thought werewolf packs were matrilineal."
"Traditionally, yes. But let's just say that over time, we've become more progressive." He winks.
"What can I do about a turf war? I don't have any diplomatic skills, and my kind aren't exactly well-received by yours. And vice versa."
"Starling is willing to overlook the strained relations between our species because we need your magick. We can only do so much to hold off the other pack. We've tried for a friendly resolution, but Wimborne won't budge. You're our last resort, Emrys."